Reportedly, there are plans for a Medline 800,000-square-foot distribution center to be located in Hammond.
To give you an idea of size, the Superdome’s total floor area is 269,000 square feet.
New York City-based Round Table Investments plans to locate this center on 42 acres where Industrial Park Road and Vineyard Road intersect.
Problem: They intend to build this massive center in a residential area (currently zoned as such). Consequently, they need the property to be re-zoned.
The photo chosen for the staff report to the Hammond City Council (and the photo that was published in the Daily Star) makes it appear that not that many houses would be affected. On the contrary, there are more than 200 houses in the three subdivisions closest to the proposed center – some houses directly across the street. This is clearly a residential area.
St. Tammany Parish recently went through a similar re-zoning issue with Medline. The land was approved for re-zoning by the Parish Council. Local residents were outraged! They subsequently challenged the re-zoning decision in court. However, the ruling on this challenge was made moot by a decision made by their Parish President.
Believing that this center was totally inappropriate for a residential area, President Mike Cooper denied a permit for Medline to clear the land in order to block the center’s construction.
In earlier meetings Medline representatives stated that if this plan did not work out, Medline had options B and C that were not located in St. Tammany Parish. We are plan B.
Why were the St. Tammany residents so upset with the project? Some, of course, had concerns that this huge center would destroy the character of their neighborhoods (although the site was not as close to these neighborhoods as the proposed Hammond site would be to ours).
Their major concerns, however, were much broader-based. The location of the new center would impact the whole area. Two of the main issues concerned drainage/water quality and traffic. These issues are at least as significant if not more so for Hammond.
Imagine the rain water, which in the past would have been largely absorbed by the 42 acres of farmland, now running off a building with four times the floor space of the Superdome. This run-off is particularly problematic due to the Selsers Canal running through the property.
This canal flows into Selsers Creek Watershed (one of the three watersheds in Hammond). Even without the distribution center, the water in Selsers Canal has sometimes overflowed its banks in an extreme rain storm, resulting in Industrial Park Road having to be closed.
Imagine what would happen with all the additional water—the canal, which runs to Highway 190, could easily cause a closure of Hwy 190 as well. Such a closure to Hwy 190 would result in problems for those attempting to get to work, children going to school, the National Guard attempting to get to their base at the airport, etc.
These somewhat isolated instances might pale to the more permanent impact of the storm water on the ground water where we get our local water.
The company has agreed that their drainage plan will meet or exceed the 100-year flood plan.
Round Table Investments, based in New York City, might place more confidence in such flood plans than we here in Louisiana. In recent years we have seen cities flooded in areas that have never flooded before.
For whatever reasons, our climate has changed, and we are more vulnerable than ever before to hurricanes, tropical depressions, and the subsequent flooding.
Drainage issues aside, the new distribution center will impact traffic on one of Hammond’s main arteries. St. Tammany was informed that once the distribution center was fully developed, delivery vehicles would operate at up to 170 trips per day. Imagine trying to get to work or get your children to and from school using Highway 190, which is already heavily traveled.
In summary, the proposed re-zoning of residential acreage will negatively impact the quality of life, not only of those who reside in the adjacent three large subdivisons, but also a significant number of others in our Hammond community.
On Monday, Oct. 19, at 5:30 p.m. there will be a special meeting with a Medline representative at the city’s Michael J. Kenny Recreation Center, 601 Coleman St. We believe that this venue was chosen due to the large crowd expected. We hope this will be the case.
We ask that not only those in the directly-affected neighborhoods, but also those of you in the greater Hammond community who are concerned about flooding, the quality of our water and our traffic will attend.
Just showing up at this meeting will demonstrate that you care about your community.
We hope to see you there.
Hunter and Carole McAllister are Hammond residents.